Make the right CRM choices Pt 2

31 July 2017 by Charbel Abi-Maroun

In last month’s blog I gave a couple of tips for finding the right membership CRM solution. Now that you’ve done that (and I’m sure decided upon Microsoft Dynamics 365 - the top membership CRM) it’s time to find the right membership CRM provider.


You should look for a CRM agency that can understand your issues, guide you on possible functionality and collaborate with you through the process and beyond (because it doesn’t just stop at go live of your new membership system).

Why it’s important to find the right partner

We all know the importance of finding the perfect partner in personal relationships so why should it be any different in professional partnerships?

So often a typical tender process focuses just on the technology and keeps potential crm for membership suppliers at arm’s length. For fear of what - them hoodwinking you into buying something you don't want? Keeping them at a distance will mean you’ll only find out what the people you will be working with are like once you’ve appointed them. What if there are personality clashes? Or they work differently to what you’re used to?

What might seem irrelevant when you’re focused on the process of finding a solution can actually cause delays and reduce the effectiveness of the working partnership once you get into the reality of it all.

You want to get the best out of your investment. So does the membership CRM provider - it’s their reputation at the end of the day and, trust me, they don’t want an underperforming system any more than you do.

So, here’s my tips for finding your perfect provider...

Tip #1 - Draw up clear criteria for the provider

You’ve chosen Microsoft Dynamics 365 (for example) as the ideal membership platform for your organisation. Now to find the right provider. Internet research, talking to other membership organisations and visits to relevant exhibitions will quickly provide you with a shortlist of potential suitors, sorry providers.

But how do you narrow them down and compare them?

Draw up clear criteria on which to judge them and score each provider as objectively as you can:


What experience have they got in the membership sector? With your chosen system? With integrations, data migration and the like? What case studies can they show you?


This is coupled with experience. What solutions do they propose? Have they done any projects with similar solutions? Do they instill confidence in you about their knowledge of the membership sector AND your chosen system?


When you speak and/or meet, how well do you get on with them? Are they the people who will be in your project team? Try to meet everyone who would be in the team, not just the bosses.

Are they on your wavelength? Do you feel reassured and comfortable with them? It’s important to acknowledge any potential clashes - they may well be rectifiable prior to the start of the project.

I’ll come back to the ‘meeting people’ aspect in my next tip.


How do they work? What is the process for the project implementation? What contingency plans are in place?

Tip #2 - Engage with the potential suppliers early on

As a provider the typical process we have to go through is the traditional ‘invitation to tender’ (ITT). That’s fine - you need to have some uniform way of managing the selection process - but please don’t hide behind it!

So often we are told that we can’t discuss things with the potential client while the ITT is going on but this stops both sides investigating the ‘compatibility’ aspect. How do you know if there is any rapport if you refuse to meet or talk to the potential suppliers until the big demo day?

I know it’s hard to find time to talk to all the membership CRM specialists in your shortlist, which is why it might be wise to review your shortlist down before you start engaging with anyone.

And don’t leave the demo meeting until the end of the process, almost as a crescendo. The demo will give you a deeper insight into the platform, the supplier and the solution they propose so it’s better to have that meeting sooner rather than later. It will also help you focus on finding the right overall solution not just system or provider.

If you follow these tips along with the tips in my first blog on the subject I’m confident you will find the best membership CRM solution for your membership organisation.

Good luck!